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Friday, September 17, 2021

IRS Criminal Investigation warns Vermonters about new wave of COVID-19 scams

NEWPORT — The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) is warning Vermont taxpayers about a new wave of COVID-19-related scams as the agency delivers the second round of Economic Impact Payments.

In the last several months, IRS-CI has seen a variety of Economic Impact Payment (EIP) scams and other financial schemes designed to steal money and personal information from taxpayers.

Criminals are taking advantage of the second round of Economic Impact Payments, as well as the approaching filing season, to trick honest taxpayers out of their hard-earned money.

“IRS-CI is committed to investigating allegations of Covid-19 related fraud,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Joleen Simpson. “Together, with our law enforcement partners and the Office of the United States Attorney, we will continue to identify, investigate, and prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, anyone engaged in these types of fraud schemes.”

Some common COVID-19 scams include text messages asking taxpayers to disclose bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments.

Phishing schemes using email are also common, letters and social media messages with keywords such as “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” and “stimulus” in varying ways.

These communications are blasted to large numbers of people and aim to access personally-identifying information and financial account information including account numbers and passwords.

The organized and unofficial sale of fake at-home COVID-19 test kits as well as offers to sell fake cures, vaccines, pills, and professional medical advice regarding unproven COVID-19 treatments have also been seen.

Others include fake donation requests for individuals, groups, and areas heavily affected by the disease, bogus opportunities to invest in companies developing COVID-19 vaccines while promising that the “company” will dramatically increase in value as a result.

Although criminals are constantly changing their tactics, taxpayers can help protect themselves by acting as the first line of defense.

The best way to avoid falling victim to a scam is knowing how the IRS communicates with taxpayers.

The IRS does not send unsolicited texts or emails.

The IRS does not call people with threats of jail or lawsuits, nor does it demand tax payments on gift cards.

IRS-CI continues investigating hundreds of COVID-19-related cases with law enforcement agencies domestically and abroad and educating taxpayers about scams.

COVID-19 scams should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submitted through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies.

Taxpayers can also report fraud or theft of their Economic Impact Payments to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Reports can be made online at TIPS.TIGTA.GOV.

Taxpayers who receive unsolicited emails or social media attempts to gather information that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, should forward the message to [email protected]

Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone.

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